Some things in life transcend their oeuvre. Some things in life – objectively – work. I’m not even really taking in the wider sense of performance, quality or the like. They just ‘work’.
I grew up a Lamborghini fanboy. I’m pretty sure I’ve admitted that before when I was granted access to the wonderful Urus. But I should probably reinforce and delve a little deeper here before I venture into the meat of this editorial. I was born on a balmy summer’s day in August 1981. Charles had just Married Diana, Elvis was dead. I only mention the latter as it occurred four years previously to the day. A further disappointment is that I share a birthday with Madonna, but that’s another rant for another time.
Anyway, it’s the 80’s: Wall Street and The City thrived, the yuppy was born. Cocaine was all the rage and the car market represented this excess well. Porsche’s technological marvel in the 959. Ferrari with the timeless F40. But what adorned my walls? What was the object of my desires? The Lamborghini Countach.
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Why? Why was that my car of choice for my childhood bedroom decor, despite being older, slower, and heavier than the newer rivals? Because it just worked. Not knowing about turbochargers, Haldex four-wheel drive systems, or anti-lock brakes – Christ, I probably barely know more now. But one thing I did know was what looked cool. What I could associate with. We all drew cars as children – not in a weird anthropomorphic way but in the most basic form. What looked fast? Right angle triangle with four wheels. Done. Maybe a crudely rendered spoiler if feeling arty. I mean, come on, that’s basically the Countach 25th Anniversary. As such, there was instant allure. Sure, I still loved all cars. From visiting the Peugeot dealership 400 yards down from my childhood home to convincing my father to walk the halls of Earls Court for the Motorshow; I loved it all. But Lamborghini was always the one.
The ’80s became the 90’s. Fashion and music arguably somehow got worse. In fact, considering we are seemingly in the midst of a ’90s fashion revival, I can confidently say it did indeed get worse. The world saw the Gulf War, Madonna was still thriving. Euuurrghh. In the automotive world, new players had entered the fore everywhere. Jaguar made the Xj220 and weird American things like the Vector W9. Tiger Woods. It was all change. What was Lamborghini making? The Diablo. Right angle triangle, four wheels, adding a wing if feeling arty. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Fast forward another decade. Now we’ve survived the Millennium Bug, and we genuinely thought that the world would end because we didn’t know if our clocks would tick over to 2000. Can you imagine – in a world where my iPhone knows what time it is better than I do no matter where on Earth I am, there was a time when we all thought civilisation was on the brink because of a quirk of digitisation and the calendar. Spicemania was a thing, apparently. Oil money was definitely becoming a thing. There’s another Gulf War. What else? Fresh from PlayStation fame and movie franchises, Japanese weaponry is a la mode. Nissan R34 GTR V Spec Skylines. Ferrari goes 355 to 360. Porsche makes the marvellous V10 Carrera GT. What’s going on at Sant Agata? Murcielago. Right angle triangle, four wheels, add a spoiler if feeling arty.
Some. Things. Just. Work.
It’s suddenly 2011 and we have the introduction of the car that changed it all, simply by not changing a thing. The car – wait, the supercar – for all people, all places. The car that no one need know anything about to covet: The Aventador. Starting deliveries at the back end of 2011, by 2016, Lamborghini had produced some 5000 units. That’s huge. Huge numbers not just for the manufacturer, but for a product of that type. At the end of production, those numbers will be knocking on for 11,500. Some things just work.
It’s now 2023. Music is strange. People, stranger still. We have progressed or regressed into a strange world, unlike any era that has gone before. Gender debate, Crypto and NFTs. It’s all change. Although, cocaine is all the rage; Oil money is bigger than ever and as I’ve said, fashion is shocking. So maybe not that much has changed. We still have the Aventador, though now very much in its swansong. That comes in the form of the Ultimae. Available in both coupe and roadster form, but limited to 600 units worldwide. It’s basically a less showy SVJ. An SVJ without wings. Does that make it less ‘Lamborghini’? I can only wait and find out.
This one has been a long time in the making. In the waiting. The painful wait. The anticipation. The ‘my editor doesn’t believe it’s even coming’. Then the email arrived.
The Ultimae. The Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae LP780-4 coupe. The press example is presented in Grigio Acheso, an option colour and finish. Contrasted by matte carbon fibre adornments and some contrast black accents, the car is menacing in the extreme. Physically smaller than expected, but no less presence. The colour further evokes the fighter jet styling cues that followed through from the Reventon of 2009. My excitement is peaking. The moment is coming.
I slip my slightly clammy hand gingerly into the slot, ease some pressure and pull gently skyward. That scissor-door entry is nothing less than muted pornography. So effortless in its execution, it’s part of the recipe that makes the Aventador just that little bit more special. I slide into the cockpit, a word you find yourself using in place of cabin unconsciously a lot of the time. The first thing one notices is that there are a lot of buttons. I mean, a lot of buttons. Adjusting to the setting, the cabin is awash with carbon fibre and Alcantara as is de rigeur in these circles and part of the more formulaic aspects of the car.
From the windscreen, rear screen and side windows, one can see out of all of them. I flick the red ignition protector and apply a soft touch to the button. The electronics fire and there is a slight whirr as the car comes to life. I go to connect my phone and input my home address. I’m tapping the screen – a screen small enough that I probably should have known better. Toggle inputs. Ok. Ok. I then hard press and fire her up and all is forgiven. The world is saved. All our sins, forgotten. That thunderous naturally aspirated V12 powerhouse comes to life, and I’m instantly returned to my bedroom wall. In a fog of delirium. Giddy from the sheer theatre of the whole thing, I trundle jerkily through the poorly tarmacked business park roads of a site near Hatfield we shall dub ‘Supercar Alley’, now being home to the great and the good of retail automotive. Jerkily is correct and I hasten to rectify that as I realised, I must be in manual and the recalcitrant gearbox is lurching at my inactivity. I MUST be. Nope, the fat capitalised digital ‘A’ in the midst of the digital cluster almost mocking me. Ok. Ok.
I think it best that we deal with the less wonderful aspects of the car quickly, methodically, executioner style. I’ll say now, these are trifling things and perhaps in 2023, it’s the Aventador’s success that makes for a few of the issues, such as a decade-old gearbox and infotainment system. The seating position is not great, and the pedals ask for size 39, five foot four feet, not size 44, five foot eleven clown shoes. Visibility is not great. What’s more, one needs to employ Nureyev levels of flexibility and poise to angle oneself, shoulders fully free of the window, in a kind of Punch and Judy pose where you’re one of the puppets. Waist down, one is very much in the car. Waist up, less so. The position of some of the lesser-needed switchgear and levers was also somewhat of a bugbear. Need to change the info displayed to you from the central instrument binnacle? Simple. Google, ‘how do I change the info displayed on an Aventador’s Dash?’ Then search about seven entries down and there is a comment from a forum thread. There you can find the info you need. Turns out, on the underside of the right stalk, there is a button. Press that four times… So, intuitive it may not be. But I am not here for the instrument cluster or even the visibility. I’m here for the whole package.
What one should do is juxtapose that with everything else that the car brings. Simply put, it’s my favourite thing that I have driven, by a country mile. A city mile. A desert mile. A tundra mile. A nautical mile. A space mile. By any distance one cares to measure, be it metric or imperial, there is nothing that has grabbed me like the Aventador. They say to buy a car that you look back at when you walk away. Look back at? I was parking exclusively outside coffee shops so I at least had a drink to occupy the 14 minutes I would invariably stand staring at her. Because that is what people do. They stare. I stare. We all stare. I would return to the car and there would always be a crowd. Always. Because as I said, one doesn’t even need to know the importance of that raging bull. Or the storied history of Sant Agata, to know that they want one. They want one because they drew one once. A right-angle triangle, with four wheels. They may well have added a spoiler should they have been feeling arty.
I had ventured back to the West Country for the weekend. I say ventured back, but I am from London and it’s my fiancée that lays claim to the more cider-based aspects of our life. That being said, eager to soak in more of the car (and perhaps the stares) I googled ‘car meet near me’.
The danger of these things is that one arrives at a Tesco car park surrounded by a throng of barely legal people doing barely legal things in cars that should be illegal. However, there was a Sunday breakfast meet at a pub a mere two miles from my in-Law’s house. 8.30 am. Coffee and bacon rolls available. In fairness, they had me at ‘pub’. So on a blisteringly cold Sunday morning in the village of Old Sodbury, I cold started that V12 lump and provided the most sonorous alarm clock the sleepy village had heard in a long time. Frost dappled the trees and that early morning sun broke through the mist as I trundled out of the driveway. Hold first gear just that little bit longer than necessary and one is treated to the most glorious of howls. If slightly more spirited through the revs that change into second, you’ll unleash a whip crack so fierce it gave me chills the first time it hit. As an aside, that’s another reason why I love it so much. Everything, as Spinal Tap would say, is turned up to 11.
The great thing about these provincial car meets is that they’re the world’s great equaliser. One arrives in anything and all revel in the shared love of metal and motor. Then you turn up in a Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae LP780-4 and the world isn’t quite so ecumenical it seems. I am always quick to contextualise my position and advise that the car isn’t, in fact, mine. I waited to introduce this information however, as I felt a nod to my next-door neighbour, opening both of those almost sexual doors and walking off to grab myself a coffee would be more impactful to say the least. I returned, warmed physically by the coffee in hand, and emotionally by the throng that had inevitably gathered. Photos were taken, chats were had, revs were made. It was fun for all in attendance. For reference, we’re talking about a 987 Porsche Boxster, a Honda S2000, two Mazda MX-5, and A beautiful one-owner Volkswagen Golf GTi mark I. All great things without doubt, but there was a king present in that car park, and it wasn’t me.
I should get to talking about the car. As the name suggests, this is the Ultimate of the Aventador lineage. From the original LP700-4, not a huge amount has changed. The Aventador still boasts a naturally aspirated V12 and a Haldex four-wheel drive system mated to an ISR 7-speed gearbox. Numbers have increased through the line, as the model moved to SV, S, SVJ, and finally, the Ultimae. Bore has increased to 6.5 litres, and the power has increased to 780bhp. Push rod magnetorheological active front and rear suspension with horizontal dampers and springs provide the stability, and braking is provided by quite prodigious carbon-ceramic disks with 6 pistons at the front and 4 at the rear. Stopping is almost more important in the Aventador because there is the constant desire to stretch her legs, to hear that howl, and to soak in the sheer physicality of the car. Acceleration is addictive. Genuinely. And speed isn’t the most important factor. Whilst the 0-62 sprint is dispatched in just 2.8 seconds, the thrill comes in almost any gear at almost any speed. Drop a gear, hell – drop two or three – and one doesn’t even need to floor it. By feeding the throttle, the car comes alive and can be dictated to through the fast pedal as well as the wheel.
The Ultimae is as fast as it looks with a real stomach-churning visceral experience under hard acceleration. The four-wheel drive system hooks up almost effortlessly and flings the occupants vast distances down the road. A dry weight of 1,550kg – thanks to the carbon-fibre monocoque and despite a length of some 5 metres and a width of well over two metres – it never feels portly. Whilst it may not be as lithe through the twists as other cars, one can wrestle her efficiently along 99.9% of public roads. At six-tenths, it provides more outright entertainment than anything else, and those idiosyncrasies we talked about earlier become part of the charm. In other cars, they could be a chore. The inefficiency of the gearbox against 2023 rivals could be the rod to beat the Aventador with, but instead, it’s a quirk that contributes to the overall package, warts and all.
Note I said, ‘other cars’, not rivals. That, I feel, is an important distinction. I am not sure that it has rivals in a traditional sense. The Aventador is a choice unlike any other in automotive. It’s not a question of what to buy in the segment. One buys an Aventador not as a track weapon or as a garage queen, but because they want one, and only this car will do. I have said before that speed has become somewhat sanitised in recent times. The various exotica that used to wear monikers such as ‘widowmaker’, have become hugely fast and capable machines, yet boast barely 7% of the fear factor they used to wear as badges of honour. That also means that they have become massively usable. It is not more difficult to run, for example, a Ferrari F8 than a Volvo V90. Where one would have to spend hundreds of thousands to achieve sub-four-second 0-62 sprints previously, that’s now achievable at circa 60k with the Mercedes A45 S.
What keeps the Aventador special is that it’s special. Every time you walk up and open that door it’s an event. The two kids up the road from my in-laws bugged me all weekend as though I was a contemporary – ‘Is the guy with the Lamborghini home? Can he come out and play?’ Countless of the public in Bristol, Old Sodbury, London and my corner of Surrey revelled in the car, whether petrolheads or not. Did it live up to expectations? It flew past them. Any reticence felt in the first ten minutes melted away to nothingness and all I longed to do was drive her. It’s the ultimate recipe for a supercar: an unnecessarily large V12. Thunderous exhaust system. Low and imposing. Pointed nose. It has it all.
With the demise of cars that are seemingly dinosaurs in today’s age of hybridisation and smaller and smaller capacities, it will be interesting to see where Lamborghini goes with its replacement. A couple of things I would wager though. Right angle triangle. Four wheels. They may even add a spoiler if they’re feeling arty.